Bringing Up Baby

April 9, 2010

Bring Up Baby

Bringing Up Baby

This mile a minute film goes on an absurd romp from golf courses to museums to mansions to police stations to woods spreading its slapstick joy where ever it goes.  This is the greatest example of slapstick humor that I’ve ever seen working in wonderful pratfalls and witty jabs every second.  It demands your attention, otherwise you will miss yet another joke.

The story is of a man, Dr. David Huxley played by Cary Grant, who is a well meaning paleontologist who is wrapped up in his own little world being bossed around by his fiance.  Problems arise when his project starts to run low on funding and he has to try and convince Dr. Alexander Peabody to donate money of a patroness to his project.  While playing golf with Dr. Peabody he meets Susan Vance (the patroness’s niece as it turns out), played by Katherine Hepburn, who has a way of ruining everything for him.  This unfortunate meeting manages to ruin the golf outing, getting the money, a later meeting with Dr. Peabody at a restaurant, and basically the rest of the film for Dr. Huxley.  Susan Vance then calls up Dr. Huxley out of the blue the following day because she has a small problem, she has a leopard, destined for her aunt that her brother had sent and she had opened in her apartment.  So Dr. Huxley, not being of good conscience to leave her with a leopard in her apartment, goes to help her out and take the leopard to her aunts place where they manage to lose the leopard.  The screenplay for this film is, I believe, around 350 pages long, which is extremely long as it is assumed one minute per page and the film is only 102 minutes.  So the dialog is simply packed in there and is all pretty witty in its humor.

The acting performances are great.  Cary Grant delivers a great performance as Dr. Huxley.  Dr. Huxley was modeled after silent film actor Harold Lloyd, and you can tell that because of the glasses and looks that Grant has in this film.  He meets the tone of the film perfectly being extremely confused and annoyed throughout the film.  Katherine Hepburn does equally as good a job being very sweet and innocent as she wrecks Dr. Huxley’s life one bit at a time.  The rest of the supporting cast is very solid as well, but Grant and Hepburn dominate the screen and the screen time and the supporting cast is used primarily to set up the Grant and Hepburn for their lines and pratfalls.  Grant actually does all of his own stunts during this film taking money a tumble throughout.

Visually this is a well done film.  It is one of Howard Hawks most memorable films even though it bombed when it came to the box office and got him fired from RKO Radio Pictures and got Katherine Hepburn bought out from her contract.  It fortunately didn’t disappear as it is still hilarious to watch today.  An odd bit of trivia is that this film has no sound track.  There is music played with the opening and closing credits, but once the film gets going there is no more music, this doesn’t detract from the film at all, and having music might have been a hindrance because it would have been tricky to match anything up to the fast paced dialog that goes on in this film.  Also in the script, for another bit of trivia, is one of what is commonly believed to be the first uses of the word ‘gay’ in a slang form meaning homosexuality that it is primarily used today.

Bringing Up Baby is one of the funniest films that I’ve seen.  It keeps you on the edge of your seat with laughter not only appealing to visual humor with the normal slapstick variety of pratfalls, but you have to listen to the film to catch all of the witty dialog.  For this reason it appeals to a broad spectrum of people as humor should and has many memorable moments in it.

Entertainment Grade: A-

Critical Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-


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